Every Monday in the summer, the kids at Sarah’s House start the morning by tumbling into a van and driving across the Bay Bridge to a sprawling property on the Eastern Shore. They swim, rock climb, kayak, play basketball and other team sports before, almost inevitably, falling asleep on the van ride home.
The weekly trip to River Farm Camp, which is owned and managed by Schuster Concrete, is a chance for children staying at the supportive housing program in Anne Arundel County to experience the joys of summer camp.
“It’s a really nice day for them to get off the property,” said Alexis Tucker, child care director at Sarah’s House. “Kids are very resilient, but … [this] is a way for them to get away.”
River Farm Camp began its partnership with Sarah’s House seven years ago, and even found a way to safely host smaller groups of campers last summer when the COVID-19 pandemic had shut down many other activities.
This year, Sarah’s House is home to 15 children, ages 6 to 15, all of whom are invited to attend. The camp continues to follow some pandemic-related restrictions, such as social distancing, but the outdoor setting allows most activities to continue.
Swimming is a consistent camper favorite, Tucker said, although counselors sometimes have to convince younger children there are no sharks in the water.
“It’s another way for them to have new experiences,” she said.
Sunshine, tie dye and mini golf
Other Catholic Charities programs have brought the joys of summer to young people in a variety of ways.
At St. Vincent’s Villa, for example, seasonal activities have included tossing water balloons, swimming, hosting cookouts and tending to a community garden filled with cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, eggplants and herbs. Recently, Mountain Run Mini Golf in Fallston, Md., opened early so children in the comprehensive residential treatment program could have the course all to themselves.
“The kids are in summer school now, but we are looking forward to a bowling outing, multicultural camp activities and, hopefully, a celebration,” said Tricia Ey, the therapeutic recreation coordinator.
At Anna’s House, which provides emergency, transitional and supportive housing in Harford County, staff and volunteers have planned five family fun nights throughout the season. The goal is both to entertain children in the program and to promote more family engagement. Activities vary, including tie dye, taekwondo, hop-hop dance, and a visit from a balloon artist and a Kona Ice truck.
“We’re trying to find a way to get the kids to put down their screens and get outside – and pull the parents in, too,” said Jennifer Crosson, the program’s volunteer manager. “Hopefully we’ll have some good summer fun!”